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On April 2, 1930, a beautiful baby girl, Lois Bernadine Cousin, was the middle child born to Rev. Sylvester A. and Marlena Cousin. Bernadine, as she was called, was the only girl in the family, having two brothers, which had a lot to do with her fearless spirit, fierce independence and spunk.
Learning was a passion for Bernadine, even in her formative years in Xenia and Yellow Springs, Ohio. Her father’s ministerial assignments caused Bernadine to change schools several times, but she was always a good student. She attended school in Wilkes Barre, Ohio and, in 1940, because of her father’s illness, the family moved to warmer climates in Florida. Their first Florida ministry was in Daytona Beach, and when Bernadine was in the 10th grade, the family was transferred to West Palm Beach, Florida.
This would prove to be an enchanting place for Bernadine because she met the one who would change her name and change her life. “THE ONE’S” name was Cecil Murray who changed her name to Dino. Dino’s assessment about this extraordinary young man added up to his being the guy of her dreams. He was a Christian young man; that was the first requirement. He was a hard worker; that was the second requirement. He was intelligent; that was the third requirement; and he was fearless, not afraid of her brothers, but in accord with the time, definitely afraid of her father. She was enchanted by his charm and wit, but she was a girl who had her priorities straight, so off to college she went.
The year was 1947, Jackie Robinson courageously writes baseball history and becomes the 1st African American to play major league baseball. It was that kind of spirit that fueled Dino’s college career as she entered Central State College in Xenia, Ohio. She was focused and purposeful, much like Jackie Robinson, and she became one of the few young African American women in her birth town to go to college. In 1951, Dino graduated from college with double degrees in sociology and education.
Dino had a passion for learning and a generous heart for teaching. She returned to West Palm Beach and taught at Palm View Elementary School for a period of seven years; training and empowering young minds with the skills that would enrich their lives. She gave children an education and tools to have a fulfilling life. Cecil admired this woman for her startling outer beauty, but more for her profound inner beauty and spirituality. On June 25, 1958, he asked Bernadine for her hand in marriage. They were wed in Miami, Florida.
The honeymoon was a cross country drive to Oxnard California, where new husband, Chip, (she changed his name too) was in his 7th year in flying service with the United States Air Force. Together they were to spend three more years of active duty, moving to three different bases. In June of 1961, both committed to separating from the Air Force and to Captain Chip attending seminary at the School of Theology in Claremont, California. There, Dino worked in the president’s office while Chip finished his doctoral training in theology with the aid of the GI Bill of Rights and a separate job.
Their formal ministry began together, in Pomona, California, with seven members at Primm AME Church. Three years later, having grown to 150 members; and their family having added a son, Drew Murray; Chip was reassigned to Kansas City, Kansas. After five years there, they moved on to First AME Church in Seattle, Washington. While Chip developed as a pastor, Dino developed as a missionary. She was an excellent leader, developing Head Start programs for youth; feeding, clothing, and housing services for the impoverished. She was the ‘wind beneath’ her husband’s wings as they flew higher and higher in community outreach and service. In 1977 Chip, Dino and son Drew came to Los Angeles.
They were assigned to the leadership of First AME Church in Los Angeles, California. This was the beginning of a 27 year relationship that Chip, Dino and Drew would cherish as their life’s calling. Dino took as her ministry, the mission of the Missionary Society. Her years as teacher, counselor and advocate for children inspired her to start mentoring programs for youth, tutoring programs and scholarship programs to enhance their educational opportunities.
Dino’s dedication inspired her to develop an AIDS ministry, providing AIDS victims with meals, toiletries, visits and prayers. She embraced AIDS victims when society deemed them untouchable. Dino’s missionary unit went to Skid Row to serve meals to the homeless; she collected and distributed school supplies and toys for underserved children and sponsored fundraisers to send glasses, socks, clothing, books and medicines to Africa. Her missionary unit served outreach community programs that provided food, clothing and support for the 2000 tenants in the 13 housing villas built by the church. Her leadership garnered the love of the AME missionaries, who named the newest missionary unit after her and started a school in Africa bearing her name.
She will be remembered during service as THE FIRST LADY OF FAME, a title she did not demand, but earned with hundreds of expressions of faith, hope and love for people. She is cherished by those who love her simply as DINO…there will be a tear; but then there will be a smile.
She completed her mission and went home on Saturday, April 27, 2013 at 7:35am. She leaves to cherish her memory: her husband, Cecil L. “Chip” Murray and son, Drew; brother, Robert Cousin and sister-in-law, M. Joan Cousin, in Bolling Brook, Illinois; brother and sister-in-law Edward and Mary Murray of San Antonio , Texas ; sister-in-law Louise M. Bowman, Los Angeles, California; eight nephews: Terry Shawn Tampa, Florida; Gerry Dean, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Philip Cousin, Durham, North Carolina , Steven Cousin, Kansas City, Kansas, David Cousin, Brooklyn, New York, Michael Cousin, Detroit Michigan, Joseph Cousin- Ann Harbor, Michigan; two nieces, Tammie Murray and April Thomas, Los Angeles, California; aunts, uncles, cousins, and a host of friends and loved ones.
We can say of Lois Bernadine Murray that she lived the life she loved, and she loved the life she lived. May she live forever!